On Wednesday, January 13, Scott Stedman, an investigative journalist and founder of Forensic News Net, published multiple, in-depth sexual harassment and grooming allegations about John Weaver. John Weaver is a political consultant who advised John McCain on his 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns. He also co-founded the Lincoln Project, the Republican-created political action committee with the sole goal of getting Donald Trump out of office.
Stedman’s piece meticulously details Weaver’s sexual harassment and grooming of over a dozen men as young as 19. According to the text messages provided to Stedman, Weaver dangled future political connections to the men/boys in question in exchange for sexual favours, offering to fly them to cities to visit him and asking for massages and sex acts when the young men were invited to dinner under the guise of professional networking. After Stedman’s piece was published, more men came forward. The number of men alleging sexual harassment by John Weaver is now 30. You can read Stedman’s full story on John Weaver and his sexual harassment and grooming of young men here.
Weaver responded to the story a few days ago. He released a statement saying: “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you. The truth is that I’m gay. And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”
That’s a weak apology from someone who 1) was using his position of power to harass and assault men starting out in their careers and 2) spent most of his life working with ultra-conservative Republicans trying to strip protections from LGBTQIA+ people.
So how does this connect to the royal family?
Well, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex likely worked with and possibly accepted money from the Weaver-co-founded Lincoln Project on ads leading up to the 2020 US Presidential election. So this scandal is a perfect encapsulation of why members of the British Royal Family are essentially forbidden to associate with businesses and/or politicians for actual or perceived personal gain. If Meghan did work with the Lincoln Project, then this is every fear the BRF had about Meghan and Harry’s independent working life rolled into one.
In November of 2020, I wrote this post about how Meghan probably/almost certainly did voiceover work on anti-Trump ads released by the Lincoln Project. You can watch one of the ads in question here and judge for yourself.
My above-mentioned post about Meghan and the Lincoln Project ads was picked up by UK newspaper The Sun and the International Business Times. I have a hunch that my post led to those news outlets reaching out to the Lincoln Project to ask if Meghan had any involvement in these advertisements. The response that the Lincoln Project spokesperson gave The Sun was: “The voice over actress in question wishes to remain anonymous.” So I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that we got an official response about Meghan’s involvement because of my blog post.
This response by the Lincoln Project all but convinced me that Meghan, did, in fact, voice those ads. This is because any normal actress would take credit for such a role. In advance of the 2020 presidential election, wouldn’t you want to have your name associated with such a big acting job, even if it’s just voiceover work? The only reason you wouldn’t want your name attached to it is if you’re trying to hide your affiliation with the Lincoln Project for some reason. Like, maybe you’re married into a royal family and your grandmother-in-law would flip out and take your titles and style away if she saw that you were playing politics AND possibly taking money from a business that was not vetted by her. Just spitballing.
If none of this Weaver-having-harassed-young-men business had come out, it is likely that Meghan would have leaked the news of her cooperation with the Lincoln Project at some point in the near future. The statement by the Lincoln Project wasn’t really a denial of Meghan’s involvement, and Meghan’s PR team would know that and would have signed off on it.
As I said in a previous post, this may have paid off for Meghan in the long run if everything had gone according to plan. Given no scandals, when the Biden/Harris administration had successfully been sworn in, Meghan could have revealed her work with the Lincoln Project to whomever she gives her first post-Megxit interview (Oprah, Michelle Obama, etc.). She could have casually dropped in that she wanted to help during the 2020 election and that that led her to offer her voiceover talents to a Republican-backed group with the express intent of getting Trump out of office. Easy peasy.
In her and her advisors’ minds, I’m sure this looked like a slam dunk of a PR move. It would have shown that Meghan was willing to work on both sides of the aisle for things she really believes in (electing Joe Biden). It would have given her Republican support if she chooses to run for public office in the future (Kamala Harris is set to resign her Senate seat on Monday, January 18 in advance of being sworn in as the Vice-President on Wednesday, January 20). It also would have given her an air of Will and Kate-ness, not having sought attention immediately for something that she did. She was looking to say in 6 or 9 months, “Oh yeah, I did that, because I believe in my country and I wanted to help.”
But that strategy only works if the organization you worked with turns out to still be a decent organization/helmed by decent human beings 6 or 9 months later. And the Lincoln Project and its co-founder, John Weaver, are now politically radioactive.
If it is revealed that Meghan did, in fact, do voiceover work for the Lincoln Project – or, if even worse, she did voiceover work for the Lincoln Project and was paid for it – Meghan will have tied herself, however marginally, to a scandal that goes against all of Meghan, Harry, and the royal family’s stated values. It will make Her Majesty The Queen look bad. This is the cardinal rule of being royal – you need to stay clean, and APPEAR clean, so that you don’t make the monarchy look dirty. Even the appearance of wrongdoing or having associated with bad people looks bad for you, but it also looks bad for the monarchy. And that is absolutely not allowed.
So, if Meghan actually did work for the Lincoln Project, her options now are to:
- Come clean about having worked for the Lincoln Project in a few years, when things are less heated (the most risk-averse option, although if her cover is blown before she admits to it, there will be trouble); or
- Never mention it one way or the other (risky because it looks like she’s skirting the question, which she absolutely would be); or
- Issue a complete denial about having ever worked with the Lincoln Project/having taken money from them (extremely risky if she did work for/take money from them, as that information will find a way to become public at some point in the future).
I want to make clear that in no way am I saying that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex is implicated in or responsible for Weaver’s actions. I’m pointing out that by doing this (if she did do it), Meghan will have broken all of the following rules that, as a member of the BRF, you MUST follow to protect both yourself and the Crown:
Don’t tie yourself to politics/politicians! Especially ones who don’t share your values!
One of the first and most important rules to members of the BRF is don’t be political. At all. Period. Don’t let people know where on the political spectrum you are. And by encouraging the American people to vote for Joe Biden and not Donald Trump, Meghan has broken that rule. By engaging and working with Republicans, she has broken that rule twice. Two wrongs do not make a right in this instance.
From a totally American, nonroyal perspective, the value of working with the Lincoln Project (if Meghan did, which I think she did) is that you can say that you’ve worked with people on both sides of the political aisle. This bipartisanship makes sense if you’re thinking of politics in the 1990s or 2000s. But not now. Even the anti-Trump pockets of the American Republican party are still extremely conservative. Did Meghan think about that? Did she consider that Lincoln Project co-founder George Conway is married to Trump advisor and spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway, who once threatened to abort feminists “with a gun”? A woman who famously called lies “alternative facts” and asked a Jewish reporter what ethnicity he is in front of a press pack and live cameras? Or Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt, who convinced John McCain to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate? Or Rick Wilson, who, in 2012, posted a picture of the Confederate flag with the caption “The South Shall Rise Again”? Of course she didn’t think of these things.
Some people might try to rebut this rule with “But Meghan and Harry left the royal family! They’re not royal anymore.” If we’re splitting hairs, they are no longer senior working members of the British royal family. However, no matter what they say about being private citizens, they will continue to be royal. Harry was born into that family and moving to California doesn’t change that. And whether it’s fair or not, Harry and Meghan’s actions will reflect on The Queen and the royal family. They just will. So, no matter what, Harry and Meghan will be criticized for discussing politics. It might not be fair, but it’s the way it is.
Lack of vetting/forethought
Connecting to an organization for five minutes of fame is not worth it if it’s going to put a stain on your or your family’s reputation for years to come. Meghan and Harry’s impulsiveness has gotten them in trouble dozens of times in the past, and this appears to be more of the same. Just because something looks like it might benefit you now (or soon) does not mean it’s a savvy PR or political move. Forethought is what the BRF does pretty much flawlessly. When Kate announced the results from her Big 5 Questions survey, she said that this project was not going to be on her plate for months or years, but for generations. The BRF survives because it thinks in terms of decades, not days or weeks. Meghan and Harry haven’t learned that lesson yet.
Hire advisors who know what they’re doing
This is a gigantic cluster**** in terms of PR. If it’s ever verified that Meghan took money from this group, it will become an even bigger cluster****. For someone who’s allegedly paying for 12 full-time communications/PR staff and advisors, Meghan and Harry sure aren’t getting their money’s worth. They could hire me, just me, and be so much better off. (That isn’t me bragging or asking for a job – it’s just a fact.) But they seem to want to stick to their current strategy and PR firm. It must be a sunk cost reasoning. I can’t think of another reason why the 12 staff members who came up with this plan shouldn’t be fired immediately.
What do you think? If it comes out that Meghan does have ties to the Lincoln Project, will there be a backlash over it? Do you think Meghan did those voiceovers?
Thanks so much for reading. Please like and share if you feel inclined. You can buy me a coffee here and subscribe to my email newsletter below. Stay safe and wear a mask.